There are a lot of different ways to achieve your dream. When it comes to your Dream House, sometimes it requires a reevaluation of what's in your wallet or, at the very least, a serious redefinition of your desires.
The ideal house rarely comes onto the market the moment you need it or can afford it. Likewise, building the perfect home rarely fits snugly into the available budget.
But Jeff and Michele Gallegos found a way to create their dream home without redefining their hopes or robbing a bank.
They had lived in Meridian for nine years, but now they had three kids between the ages of 4 and 13. Anyone with kids can appreciate the family life of three kids in a too-small house.
"You can change your house, you can change the look of the house, but you can't change the location," said Michele. So they keyed on location. Jeff is a software consultant and Michele is a school counselor, but they were very focused on their children.
"We knew what schools we wanted our kids to go to," she said.
They couldn't afford building the house they wanted from the ground up. So they drove around their selected school district in Southwest Boise and they looked. And they looked. And looked.
"We basically spent a year looking for a home to fit our needs," Jeff said.
"Nothing fit our dream," Michele said.
They spent a year collecting ideas in a binder and even made offers on other houses that didn't work out. Even those were often compromises - not enough storage space, not enough room for the kids to run around and so on.
But then they walked into a 1,400-square-foot house on a huge lot and knew they had found it.
Wait - 1,400 square feet? Three kids?
"This one was it," Jeff said. "At the time, it didn't meet our expectations or vision, but we saw the potential. You could just feel that this is where we were supposed to be."
What made it work was a little-known, little-used loan program that combines the cost of a new mortgage with the cost of a remodel.
These kinds of loans are generally referred to as renovation loans.
"These loans are trying to create dream homes out of less-than-perfect houses," said Bill Young, the Gallegoses' loan officer, one of the few in the area who specialize in these types of loans.
"These programs are not even well known in the loaning community," he said. "They're a different beast."
And, as it turned out, the Gallegoses' dream turned into a beast of a project.
BUT A GOOD BEAST
We're talking about a remodel job that took the 1,400-square-foot house and created a "new" spacious home that was more than 2,900 square feet when done. The kitchen alone tripled in size and became part of the whole wide-open living and dining space. It exudes a very comfortable, homey feel, especially when you consider the Gallegoses' three young, energetic kids.
The living space and the master bedroom are all part of what is new. The kids' bedrooms were part of the original house and received less-intensive work, but there were still bathrooms and other bits that needed to be tweaked and updated.
"I don't think there was anything in the house we didn't touch," Jeff said.
"This was so much more expansive than any other kind of project I've ever worked on," said Josh Mitchell, the contractor of the project and owner of Elite Finish Carpentry & Remodeling.
The paperwork alone was four times that of a normal project. With complex loan parameters on the project, there were a lot of deadlines, and the plan needed to be very detailed every step of the way.
"It was a learning project for all the people involved," Michele said.
Since the loan is based on what the home will be worth after the project is completed, that means the plan has to be inked in, contractors on board, and bids and estimates accepted before the loan can even be approved by FHA or Fannie Mae.
While most projects of this type are more typical remodel projects, appliance upgrades or fixing smaller, more nagging issues that are often more likely to tack on less than $15,000, the Gallegoses' project cranked the possibilities wide open.
Even for a larger project, doubling the size of the home was a pretty big undertaking.
"I have to give a lot of credit to all the experts involved, from the contractors to the lending and financial aspects," Jeff said. "Without them, we never would have gotten through this."
That's especially true when you're working with an older home and trying to make it all come together.
"We made it work," he said.
"After blood, sweat and tears, it worked," Michele said. "It was a challenging experience. We had to be creative. There's a lot of creativity involved in the remodel process."
In this case, there wasn't a lot of leeway in the remodel process. The budget was pretty much set in stone, and they had six months to complete the project, which took place, in this case, in the winter.
Mitchell turned out to be a great choice for the remodel project. He was a neighbor of the Gallegoses in Meridian when they first started their house-hunting. So he was someone they were already comfortable with - a high recommendation for anyone with any remodel process.
Michele said that without that personal relationship, the experience might have been almost unbearable.
"He had a clear vision - our vision - and he met what we had in mind," she said.
Mitchell and his Elite Finish Carpentry & Remodeling subcontractors had no experience with these kinds of loan parameters, but he was no rookie in the remodeling industry.
His grandfather was the second-largest builder in Idaho at one time, working on the Sun Valley Lodge and Idaho State University.
His dad started with cabinetry and is now a structural engineer.
"I grew up reading blueprints," Mitchell said. "I guess I just kind of fell into the industry, and I've had a lot of people help me along the way."
He's had good, steady experience over the years subcontracting with Strite Design + Remodel, Keilty Remodeling and others, considered some of the best in the Valley. He still subcontracts with about four or five companies, but 80 percent of his time is now spent with his own business.
"It was time to do it for myself," he said. "It's rewarding, and it was just time to take it to the next level. Every day, I love more and more what I do."
The Gallegoses love what he did, too.
"I don't think anyone had any confidence that it would turn out this good," Jeff said. "I was amazed at how well things blended together. You can't consider this a 1970s house anymore, and that was our goal."
The home does blend together well, and that is a compliment to the way everyone worked as a team, bouncing ideas off each other, coming up with creative solutions and dealing with trade-offs when it came to the strict budget.
"How many times did I say to Josh, 'We have to make this happen'?" Michele said.
The complexities of the process, the dream and the criteria were such that it almost makes one wonder how Michele and Jeff were able to come together on all these decisions and moving parts.
"Because we're soulmates, and we really have one brain," Michele said.
"They pretty much knew what they wanted, so that made the job easier," Mitchell said.
There are still other projects waiting down the line - like a revamped front porch, back deck, workshop and, of course, a playhouse remodel for their daughter.
But the home is done. It's not like the many houses that are sold "as is" and then end up sitting there for years waiting for the remodel that never seems to come.
It started as an older home in need of some attention, and now it's a dream home for a family of five.
"We're living our vision," Michele said. "This is what we worked for. This is the dream we had for our kids. And that's an accomplishment in itself.
"This house has character. It makes me feel like home. It's a really peaceful place to be."
Dusty Parnell is a freelance print, radio and video journalist who has worked in the Treasure Valley for more than 20 years.